It’s likely you’re feeling the call to give back more strongly now than ever. Between the (long-overdue) increased attention on ending racial oppression and the ongoing effects of the pandemic, the need to advocate for others is clear in our world today. Perhaps you are even in a better position to give back than you were, say, a month ago, as you have now adjusted to life amidst a pandemic. Donating and volunteering are the obvious impactful options to make a difference. However, added financial strain and COVID-19 exposure risk have made those formerly-evergreen channels for altruism less realistic for many. Fortunately, there are other avenues for giving back.
Here are five ways to use your time, hobbies, skill sets, and everyday spending to help your community and beyond.
Offer a free community class with your favorite skill
Spirituality and wellness provide the gift of peace, rejuvenation, and connection. Now more than ever, we need that. If you have any skills related to religious leadership, spirituality, fitness, the arts, or wellness, consider donating your talents and/or professional skillsets by offering a free class for your community. Most, if not all, of these services can be offered virtually. I’ve seen a few of my yoga teacher friends offer complimentary classes via Zoom for front-line health workers. Connect with your church to offer your event to other members of your parish. You may choose to offer a guided meditation, an online prayer circle, or an online art, dance, or cooking class to provide vital stress relief during these times.
If you are a licensed mental health professional and would like to make an ongoing donation of your services, the organization Give-an-Hour connects therapists to pro bono counseling client(s) for a minimum of one year. You can learn more at this link.
Sell your favorite skill as a fundraiser
Similar to the idea above, you may hold a talent that people are willing to pay for as a fundraiser. Consider “selling” a service or product that you provide and donating the proceeds to charity. For example, you could host a yoga class for your online community and give the fees to a local initiative. If you’re bilingual, offer a set of virtual language practice sessions in exchange for a donation to a cause. Facilitate an online dance class or knit baby blankets and offer up the proceeds. An artist friend of mine has promised to allot the proceeds from his latest creation to an organization that furthers racial justice.
Reach out to volunteer with local churches or charities…again
It’s likely your capacity to volunteer has increased since the pandemic’s outbreak over three months ago. Maybe you would have loved to get involved with volunteering during the onset of the pandemic, but you needed to take care of your own household first. If you feel more stable now, and if it is safe for you to do so, consider revisiting the option to volunteer.
It can be especially helpful for younger and less vulnerable folks to step in and fill the volunteer void left behind by older folks who are being told to stay home. Baby boomers provide more yearly hours of US community service (2.2 billion) than any other age group, according to a 2018 report by the Corporation for National and Community Service. You can help fill that gap! Perhaps your church or local community center could use younger volunteers like you to shop for food pantry supplies, set up food donation stations, or offer grocery delivery services to the homebound.
If you already reached out seeking volunteer options earlier in the pandemic and were told that there was nothing to do, try again! It’s likely that different initiatives are in place now than, say, early April, and needs may have evolved. Now that furloughed or laid-off workers are going back to work, these same organizations may need additional help. Always follow the guidelines for safe volunteering.
Make your spending count
Small businesses have suffered due to COVID-19 restrictions. Shop at small businesses as they get back on their feet. Continue to support local restaurants and cafes. Choose minority-owned and female-owned businesses. Attend your local farmers’ market. This Forbes list of 75 Black-owned businesses is a good place to start, but a Google search will yield further options. If you must shop from major retailers or companies, look for companies that will donate a portion of the proceeds from each sale to COVID-19 relief efforts. Sephora, for example, will allow you to redeem store rewards points for a donation to the National Black Justice Coalition.
Your favorite hobbies can also double as a means to support pandemic relief efforts, local business owners, and artists. Continue taking online classes with your fitness studio and support your instructors — it makes a difference in keeping their business afloat.
While concert season looks different this year, online concerts offer the chance to be a part of relief efforts while supporting the arts. Billboard, a major music media corporation, updates a weekly list of online live-streamed concerts. With many of them donating a portion of proceeds to charity, these concerts are a great way to give back.
Celebrate for a cause
Your summer celebrations (within the limits of the pandemic safety, of course) can generate donations for an organization working for justice. Forgo the BYOB at your next virtual or in-person gathering and invite attendees to chip in the cash they would have spent on booze to a foodbank. And if you have a loved one’s birthday coming up, consider swapping a gift for a donation to a foundation that supports racial justice in that person’s honor. Use Facebook’s birthday donation feature to invite donations in honor of your birthday to a charity of your choice.
Even if you’re not in a place to make significant financial donations right now, you can still make a difference through your time, talents, and leadership. Be creative, and see what you come up with.